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Daniel B. Peters, Ph.D. Headshot

How to Survive Summer

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KIDS BEACH
Uwe Krejci via Getty Images

It's here -- the moment your kids have been waiting for: summer vacation. You have been waiting for it, too -- a break from all the homework, lunches, after-school activities, sports, enrichment classes, music and more.

Finally, a break!

But is it?

Do any of these statements sound familiar?

"I'm bored!"
"Why do I have to get off the computer?"
"I don't want to go to camp!"
"I just want to relax and do nothing!"
"There is nothing to do!"
"Summer is my break. Why can't I do what I want?"

If you are already asking "what date does school start?" know that you are not alone.

Almost all kids have trouble winding down and settling into summer. There is often a transition period. Many kids are scheduled from the moment they wake up to the moment they hit their pillow. Structure, although sometimes resisted, provides the boundaries by which they move through their days and defines their actions hour by hour. When this structure is removed, many children are at a loss (especially children with challenges, special needs, or gifted kids).

I have fond memories of getting on my bike and exploring our neighborhood, playing at my friend's house, making forts and playing pick up games of baseball in our driveway with neighbors. With the exception of a week-long family trip and an occasional week day camp, the day was mine to create while allowing it to unfold. Kids today still have this ability, but many have not had the opportunity to experience unstructured time and time that has not been planned for them. Yet, we want them to "be creative," "find something to do," and we remind them that they don't have to "be doing something every minute." They don't? This may be news to them.

I tell my patients and families that part of the process of settling into summer is allowing some transition time. Transition time can probably be avoided, or not needed, if your child goes directly from the schedule of school to the schedule of summer camp but in most cases every family (and child) will experience transition time.

Remember, summer break is an opportunity for so many different experiences -- from creating and building, doing art, going on hikes, reading, exploring new places, taking classes, day and overnight camp, family adventures and more. While it is our job as parents to plan for your child's summer, it is also important to include them in the process. After all it is their summer. You might be surprised to learn what they have in mind. Why not create a "bucket list" with each child and make one for the entire family too? But remember to keep schedules and minds flexible.

In addition to all the activities, as parents, you may want to think about what life skills you want to focus on or develop. You may want your child to have a new experience, participate in a fun enrichment classes, play in a sports summer league, do some tutoring, strengthen social skills or have a summer of unstructured time for creating and relaxing. This is purely a personal choice for each family and one worth exploring right away.

In most cases, you will find that your child will settle into summer and find his or her own grove. You, too, will also settle into summer.

And just when everything is going swimmingly... the start of school will be here!

So, dive in and enjoy it while it lasts!